2ndOctober. Our stay in Dartmouth was punctuated by a medical emergency with our crew member, who was hospitalised during the night (long story). We’re pleased to say he has made a very good recovery. Jonathan (who had accompanied him to Torbay) returned to Nova – relieved but not having had much sleep – on Tuesday afternoon. 

Our best weather window to go east was still the next day, so after supper in Dartmouth (we decided to eat out – Anzac Bistro – exceptional!) we got an early night. Next morning we got up at 0400. The lights on buoys and leading lights at the entrance to Dartmouth are clearly visible and we motored out and got the sails up as we left the river at around 0500 under moonless sky and stars. We sailed immediately, switched off the engine and folded the propeller, keen to ensure it didn’t tangle with any pot-buoys if we should run into them in the dark. The north-east wind rose as we cleared Berry Head, and after a while the sky lightened in the east, finally rising at 0715, casting a blaze of orange onto the water and under the cumulus clouds. 

The early start was essential for us to catch the tide going round Portland Bill, about 40 miles from Dartmouth. Our friends on Serendipity left Brixham an hour later than us and were about 5 miles behind us – good to know there were others on the same route.  We passed a number of fishing boats all within a few miles of each other; we were later told it was probably French fishing boats along the edge of the 12 mile limit.  A few dolphins also briefly passed us, but they didn’t stop to play. We made good time across Lyme Bay but the sea was lumpy and – doubtless exacerbated by tiredness – both of us felt more queasy than in any other part of our voyage. Stowaway ‘Bob’ evidently shared our view of the sickly voyage – we found him face down on the bed, looking miserable.

The stretch of water off Portland Bill is described (by Tom Cunliffe) as the most dangerous stretch of water in the English Channel. There is a race which extends up to 5 miles south of the Bill, and it is vital to stay well clear (or in certain conditions to go through a narrow ‘inner passage’ a stones-throw from the shore). We reached our offshore Portland Bill waypoint at 12 noon, exactly when we had planned to, and swept past with 3 knots of tide.  The tall red and white striped Portland lighthouse was clearly visible at the end of the headland as we turned north-east round the Shambles bank (a careful short-cut is possible west of the Shambles), past the long wall of Portland harbour (previously a naval base) and aiming for the tall Sealife tower at the entrance to Weymouth harbour. We were moored up on the town quay by 2pm. Serendipity came in shortly afterwards and rafted up alongside us.

It was a sunny afternoon and we treated ourselves to ice creams from Boho Gelato on the quayside. You want the foodie detail? We tried: Fig & Mascarpone, Sour Cherry and Olive Oil. Exceptional, and a good way to unwind in the sunshine and begin to recover after the journey across Lyme Bay and the events in Dartmouth.

  • Distance: 56nm. Sailed 9h15m
  • Wind: N/NE4-6


On our passage ‘Around These Islands’ Anne is writing about each trip, and Jonathan is writing some more ‘technical’ blogs, from our perspective as ordinary cruising sailors. We are sharing what we’ve learned, and welcome your thoughts too. Please remember that this blog – and your comments – are public.

There’s also a special focus on 12 key ports on our planned route, with articles from These Islands and a series of podcasts from Chrome Media called ‘Around These Islands in 12 Ports’.


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